By Genalyn Kabiling
SEOUL – President Duterte is impressed with the Korean-made Surion helicopters after riding the utility aircraft for several minutes during his recent visit to South Korea.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the President found the Korean defense equipment “good” but left to the local technical working group to review the proposed acquisition of the aircraft.
“The President rode the helicopter and spent five minutes there,” Lorenzana said in Filipino during a media interview at Incheon Airport last Wednesday about Duterte’s recent visit at the Ministry of Defense.
“He was also shown the weapons. He inspected them and found them good. When he saw the proposal to us, he said ‘It’s good.’ He said it’s up to the technical people to review,” he added.
Lorenzana said the government could purchase eight Surion helicopters and buy other type of aircraft elsewhere depending on the needs of the military. Surion transport utility helicopters are designed and built by Korea Aerospace Industries.
“We’re looking if it fits our needs because Surion has not yet been sold elsewhere. Only the Koreans are using them now,” he said.
Lorenzana said he also took a ride aboard a Surion helicopter during his past visit to Korea, saying it was “very powerful” and “safe.”
But the defense chief said the government was still looking at other “suitable” aircraft, such as those sold by Airbus in France, and other aircraft from Russia, China and the United States.
The President earlier said the government was studying the purchase of helicopters from South Korea after a bungled purchase deal with Canada over its human rights concerns.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the government could buy 10 to 12 Surion helicopters using the funds from the botched deal with Canada amounting to more than $230 million.